It makes me sick. It really does kill me. Reading the negative comments on a pro-Israel article. Reading the positive comments on an anti-Israel article. But instead of navigating through the world with my eyes tightly shut, avoiding hateful remarks and negative statements I force myself to look, even if through parted fingers, at what the world really thinks about the place I’ve chosen to live.
And my processing of this has been a process in and of itself. Initially it was denial: Being the daughter of a secular Israeli expat my connection to Israel was family and family alone. And then, suddenly, in a hasty shift, I began absorbing information from every possible source: articles, books, lectures, radical statements from both sides of the opposition, I opened my mind as a clean slate, sure that when I had absorbed everything my personal stance would be clear. I ended this particular journey in a pit of confusion, surrounded by literature, media, opinion and sheer brilliance, I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know how to evaluate truth, gossip, or slander, and with no map, no compass, no guide: I was lost.
Being pragmatic with so many open ended questions was difficult for me. What action could I possibly take? How could I fight politically when I saw error on both sides of the deep, complicated and confusing argument? So, as many young American Jews with Israeli roots do, I set off for a year abroad, to run away, to find some understanding of what it was I believed in and to what degree and on which side I could and would fight the battle for Israel.
In these years in Israel, no amount of hours or lines at Misrad HaPanim, or volunteering in the periphery, or arak and lemonades on the beach or Shabbat meals shared with friends and family led me to a decision. But they did put me on a path, and I found, that my greatest connection to Israel is to the land itself. To the dirt and to the sun. To the spirit of the people and to the brashness of the winds. To the Israel not by way of a bus or lecture or classroom but to the self discovery that comes from dark coffee cooking on a camping stove and sleeping on the earth with pebbles beneath my spine.
And that was and still is the Israel that I set out to share with others.
So my real question remains: what do we do, when we don’t know what to do with our Zionism?
I share what I can with those who travel with me. I share the things that I believe are undeniably true: That we live in a small but diverse land. That she is beautiful, and expansive even as a thin line on a map. That there is ancient magic here, and that the gift of rain is the greatest gift of all. I hold the sincerest hope that all the marvels that have been built and protected here in the last 64 years will grant Israel the proper voice and podium for verbal self-defense and global acceptance.
I don’t have the political answers, but I don’t need them to know that I love this place, and others should too.